“For that 2011 tour,” Tis recalls, “I brought out a rack of Neve and API outboard preamps and a few sweet vintage compressors. We used them for some of our most important channels and fed the pre amps line-in to the DiGiCo stage rack. I recorded to two systems simultaneously throughout the whole tour. I had Cubase running on my MacBook Pro through a MADIface as my backup recorder, which I also used for playback for the band and virtual soundcheck. The main recorder (the one we mixed the album from) was a Joeco BBR-64 MADI. The Joeco recorder integrated seamlessly with the DiGiCo and gave us 64 recordable tracks via MADI. It was easy to use, stable, and amazingly. Neither recorder crashed the whole tour and the tracks sounded great. Having the DiGiCo for these recordings made the project very easy… I was even able to assign a stereo aux to a pair of tracks and print a rough mix along with the multitracks as the show was going on. I would do it again the same way.”
Speiser uses his SD10 in tandem with an RME MADIFace into a MacBook Pro running Logic to track the occasional show for virtual soundcheck purposes. Most shows, however, he’s recording a board mix through that same setup as a reference for the band to listen to.
Both Tis and Speiser are no strangers to DiGiCo and the decision to carry the consoles on the newly minted tour in 2011 was an easy decision to make. Both had been introduced to the DiGiCo platform on D1s and D5s while working with SK Systems during the early 2000s, and Speiser used one or the other on tours with They Might Be Giants, 311 and with the Indigo Girls—where he moved from a D1 to an SD8 and finally an SD8/24 to get the most “bang for my buck while keeping a small footprint,” Speiser says. “Having been on DiGiCo consoles for a long time, I've really enjoyed the sonic differences as the processing technology and power have gotten more intense. Once I moved over from the D series consoles to the SD consoles, going backwards just wasn't an option. I definitely find the DiGiCo SD consoles to be the best sounding digital desks available. If you use the A>D converters to their full potential and convert the right amount of signal, you can really achieve great rich sounds. As an analogue connoisseur, it's very important to me that you can't hear anything ‘digital’-sounding in my mix and the quality of converters in DiGiCo gear, along with its floating point 40-Bit Super FPGA, achieve that more so than any other digital desks I've mixed on.”
Speiser says the flexibility and dynamic EQ/multiband comp capabilities are the most rewarding features of the SD10. “It helps to be able to put any sort of fader or output in any slot I want. I can keep everything I need in front of me and move channels I don't need as often. Having an 11-piece band, you really need to make the most out of the space you have, and I can personalize the console exactly as I see fit. The dynamic EQ is a great way to maintain the life of a vocal or instrument and still pull certain trouble frequencies out only when they start to get out of control. One other feature that has come in quite handy on the SD10 is the multiple User Defined Keys (macros). With so much going on on our stage, and musicians moving around to different mics, I'm able to use the macros to change what mics show up on what channels, allowing me to keep everybody's settings the same for their voice or instrument no matter where on stage they decide to play.”
As for outboard gear, he keeps it to a bare minimum for consistency’s sake. “It was important to me when I started working with TTB to try and keep everything in the box so that I can advance to have an SD8 or SD10 on fly dates and still be able to keep my session sounding the same. On our tour, the only piece of gear I have with me is a Dolby Lake Processor on my mix outputs so that I can walk around and EQ each venue on a tablet computer. I plan to try adding a Waves SoundGrid in the future, but we haven't had the chance to implement it just yet.”
Over in monitor world, Tis says his favorite features on the SD8 are the console’s routing flexibility and functionality, as well as the snapshots, which help him to achieve consistency. “I’m mixing the band through post-fade groups for the most part. Everyone gets themselves pre-fade off their channels and everything else in the mix is coming in post-fade through groups. This allows me to mix the show off the main faders and have the fader movement translate proportionally in everyone’s mix simultaneously. I've been using this technique for a while, but it’s definitely the best it has ever been with the SD8.
“Being able to have multiple versions (MultiPatch) of the same input to be used in different mixes on the stage, on the fader bank layers, and the flexibility of the mixing surface all help me keep those additional faders organized and streamlined,” he adds. “I also really like having the macros even though I'm using them for not so exciting stuff. I have them set up as buttons that I'd like to have that are not built-in on the surface, for instance, ‘Gain tracking On/Off’ for all channels, ‘Fader Flip On/Off,’ ‘Save Session,’ and I have a couple assigned to specific channel mutes and mute groups. I don't use a lot of snapshots, but I do have a few for certain tunes where our vocalists or keyboard/flute player moves to different positions on the stage.
“I’m also a huge fan of DiGiCo’s snapshot scope, which is second to none in my opinion. The few that I'm using, which are scoped to see aux-send level and mute, have helped me to solve some issues of consistency I’ve had in the past when our vocalist or keys/flute player change positions on stage. Also, on some legs of the tour the band will do some stripped-down blues tunes, which is pretty much an ‘audio scene change.’ The snapshots have helped me keep that portion of the show very consistent without having to flip though every mix and make adjustments. I'm also a big fan of the Multiband Compressors and Dynamic EQ's, they really help me to keep the most musical parts of my lead instruments in focus on a stage with 11 musicians, 10 wedge mixes and 2 drum fills!”
And the band has certainly noticed the forward progression of their audio production since bringing the DiGiCo SD's out on this tour. “We've had several positive comments about the consistency of the sound of our show from the band,” relays Tis. “In monitors, I’ve heard certain band members feel great because they can musically communicate with each other, which, I believe, is because of how the SD8 allows me to mix the show. With Brian at FOH with his SD10, too, there’s been a plethora of rave reviews from fans and critics, but the band has especially noticed that they are getting their musical statements across to the audience in a very focused, conducive, and high-fidelity manner night after night, and overall the audiences have become more energetic because of this. The consoles have helped us raise the bar for this organization. In my opinion the DiGiCo SD series consoles are, hands down, the best sounding and most flexible digital consoles on the market. I've used almost all of the digital consoles that are out there over the years and not one of them is capable of out performing my SD8 for its application with this band. This console makes my job fun everyday because I know I can do anything I need to. We are grateful, loyal and proud DiGiCo users.”